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Country Reports

Algeria Country Report

Overview

INTRODUCTION

While the risks present for travelers in Algeria (population 40 million) are not as high as in some neighboring countries, the country's history of terrorist activity, civil unrest, and vulnerability to natural disasters requires that visitors take a reasonable degree of caution.

REGIONS TO AVOID  

There remains a latent terrorist threat from both domestic and international groups, including small Islamic State (IS)-affiliated organizations. Al-Qa'ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) is also present, although has been facing a slow decline in manpower and operational capabilities. As such, certain Western governments advise against travel to the southern desert regions of the country below the Béni-Abbès-Adrar-Hassi Messaoud-Tébessa line.

Some governments also advise against nonessential travel to the rest of the country, with the exception of the capital Algiers and the cities of Oran and Tlemcen, which can be considered relatively safe.

The Kabylie region (east of Algiers) is particularly risky due to a lack of state control (especially the provinces of Constantine, Tizi Ouzou, Bouïra, Boumerdès, Béjaïa, and Jijel), as are the Aurès Mountains where low-intensity attacks against security forces regularly occur. Travel to the sensitive border regions with Tunisia and Libya is also advised against.

TERRORISM

Since October 2016, anti-terrorist operations have increased in frequency in the country. This is particularly true in the northeast - for example in Bouira, Boumerdes, and Tizi Ouzo - where arrests and killings of suspected terrorists occur on a regular basis. According to the Algerian army, 350 terrorists were arrested in 2016.

Algeria is a tempting target for terrorist groups operating in the Sahel (e.g., AQIM, IS, and Al-Mourabitoun), although neighboring Mali and Niger remain easier targets and offer more conducive operating environments. The authorities maintain extensive security measures throughout Algeria, especially along the country's borders, in major cities, and near areas of French, American, and British interests (e.g. embassies, businesses, etc.), which receive special protection. The borders with Mali, Niger, and Libya are all closed, although smugglers, migrants, and terrorists are still able to cross.

The number of suspected terrorists in the country has fallen recently, reflecting the increased success of security operations.

Nevertheless, terrorist attacks do occasionally occur. In February 2017, two police stations in Constantine were attacked by suicide bombers. A similar suicide attack occurred at a police station in Tiaret in August 2017 that left two officers dead.

POLITICS

Abdelaziz Bouteflika (age 80) was reelected as president for a fourth term in April 2014. Since then, demonstrations have taken place on a regular basis to denounce infrastructural deficiencies (e.g. water and electricity shortages) and an increase in consumer prices.

There was a very low participation rate in the country's 2017 legislative elections, confirming reports of widespread apathy towards Algerian politics and politicians. The elections ultimately did little to change the political scene, with few leaders being removed from power. This may serve to further increase the population's indifference regarding the political system.

Social tensions in the north are moderate but persistent. Draft legislation for the 2017 budget includes austerity measures as the government struggles to achieve fiscal balance. Protests and rioting across Kabylie in January 2017 were provoked in part by some of these proposed measures.

The southern regions are plagued by regular civil unrest, though this does not generally pose a serious security risk. Such tensions are also fueled by a sluggish economy (high inflation and unemployment rates) as well as endemic corruption and catastrophic public financial management. Tensions within immigrant communities are also problematic and led to several violent confrontations in late 2016 in Algiers and Tamanrasset.

SECURITY

Crimes such as theft, pickpocketing, and burglary do occur in densely populated areas, although they are rarely reported. Foreign nationals should be cautious, as they may be specifically targeted due to their unfamiliarity with their surroundings and presumed wealth. However, areas frequented by foreigners are generally safer due to a more robust police presence.  

Theft and residential burglaries are more commonplace in low-income neighborhoods but do occasionally occur in more affluent neighborhoods. Since most burglaries are crimes of opportunity, a well-secured home is often enough to deter criminals. While it should be assumed criminals are prepared for confrontations, most generally avoid violence.

"Express" kidnappings and carjackings are also a concern. Perpetrators often erect fake police barriers to stop cars and attack their passengers. The risk is highest in Algiers, in border regions, and in the south. Travelers should be vigilant at all times and avoid divulging too much personal information.

TRANSPORTATION

Algeria suffers from a high number of road-related fatalities due to poor road conditions and driving habits. Despite an improvement in road security measures over the past few years, the number of incidents remains high. The Ministry of the Interior reported that approximately 12 people die per day in traffic incidents, a rate of approximately 4380 deaths per year.

Travel by road outside of cities is not advised. If traveling by car is unavoidable, do so in a convoy of several vehicles equipped with emergency communication devices (e.g. satellite telephones). Roadside ambushes are infrequent but at least four separate incidents occurred in 2016, leaving several Algerian citizens dead. In all cases, it is preferable to travel with a local.

Military and police checkpoints are common on major roads within large cities and throughout the countryside. Security personnel at these checkpoints expect full cooperation. For these and other reasons, air travel is preferred inside the country.

If taking a taxi, ask your hotel to recommend a reliable company and do not allow other unknown passengers to join you during the journey. Arrange for the driver to collect you for the return journey as taxis are not widely available, particularly after dark.

Travel by train is possible between Algiers and Oran but is not recommended.

The SNCM ferry company (La Société Nationale Corse Méditerranée) serves both Algiers and Skikda from Marseille, and Oran from Alicante (Spain). The ferry transports both cars and people. It is advised to arrange for your pick up from the port of arrival in advance.  

Algiers-Houari Boumediene International Airport (ALG) is located in the southeast of the capital and adheres to international air safety standards. While security measures are not on par with those of US airports, security personnel are present throughout the airport. The government has recently taken steps to improve airport security.

NATURAL RISKS

Algeria is highly vulnerable to floods. In 2001, flooding in the Algiers neighborhood of Bab El Oued left nearly 1000 people dead and caused major damage.

Earthquakes sometimes strike in the north of the country. On May 21, 2003, an earthquake with a magnitude of 6.7 on the Richter scale left 2200 dead and 15,000 homeless in Boumerdès. Less violent earthquakes occur regularly. To learn more about what to do before, during, and after an earthquake, see this advice from the US Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Snowfall may occur in the winter and can cause widespread transportation disruptions.

LEGAL

When in Algeria, travelers should respect local traditions and customs, especially those linked to Islam. Women in particular should dress modestly and cover their heads and shoulders if entering a mosque. It is advisable to be particularly sensitive during the month of Ramadan. Generally speaking, not all restaurants serve alcohol and during Ramadan no alcohol is typically served.

The possession, use, and trafficking of controlled drugs are serious criminal offences in Algeria.

Homosexuality is illegal in Algeria. Sexual acts between people of the same sex are punishable by imprisonment.

HEALTH

All travelers are advised to take out insurance to cover medical fees as well as emergency medical evacuation before any trip to Algeria.

Diarrheal illnesses are widespread. It is therefore recommended to drink only bottled water.

Due to the risk of contracting parasitic and bacterial diseases (e.g. leishmaniasis and amebiaisis), it is not recommended to bathe in bodies of fresh water (lakes or rivers) or to walk barefoot on damp ground. 

Rabies is present in the country and human cases are regularly reported, resulting in about 20 human deaths per year. Avoid all contact with unknown mammals, particularly street dogs.

Climate

The north of the country, including along the coastline and the Tell Atlas mountain chain, has a Mediterranean climate (hot and dry summers, cool and wet winters). The high plateau regions in the center of the country are semi-arid while the area south of the Saharan Atlas chain is desert.

Temperatures can vary significantly within a single day, particularly in the Sahara Desert where temperatures can fluctuate between extremes in the space of a few hours (above 40°C during the day and below 5°C at night).

Useful Numbers

Country Code: +213 Police: 21

Electricity

Voltage: 230 V ~ 50 Hz

Outlets:

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